Liberia: Protesters Run Amok, Schools, Businesses Close After Roots FM Shutdown By Government

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Monrovia – The alleged search and seizure of Roots FM radio station Thursday, October 10, forced many businesses in the vicinity of the station to close their doors and made parents to run helter-skelter to get their kids out of school.

Many others took to the streets in protest for the government to also close down Freedom FM, which is allegedly owned and operated by a senior member of the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA is the Government of Liberia’s secret service agency like the US Government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“I am scared before anything happens; so came for my daughter on her campus, because in this kind of situation people’s children can get missing,” lamented one Esther Collins.

Thursday’s protest came less than a week after protesters took to the street at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in Oldest Congotown to demand the release of Jestina Taylor, who was allegedly being prevented from leaving the hospital by officers of the Liberia National Police. The allegedly wanted to arrest her for some comments she had made. 

This time, protesters were barricaded by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) officers, who shot tear gas to disperse the angry crowd, who threw stones at the ERU and ran in different directions. Some headed to the Freedom FM on Benson Street demanding that be shut down, too. According to them, some of the same on-air provocations that the owner of Roots FM is accused of are the same thing that this station does too in its broadcast.

Saah Bockarie, a tailor from Waterside, said he got scared and was forced to close his shop when he saw police firing tear gas.

Taking a hand full of potato greens from his pockets he said; “As you can see, my friend gave me some potato green to put inside my eyes as protection against the tear gas. I am greatly affected today, because I have a wedding contract to complete and now stores are closed and there is nowhere for me to get materials for work. So, I was forced to close my business. I have lost that money for today,” Bockarie said sadly.

Emoting his fears, Bockarie had a strong message for President Weah: “I voted for you but I am suffering because I am jobless and have three children but only two are in school. So, when you do the right thing, people will not get in the streets. But people are in the streets because they are angry.”

Morris Bosii, a resident of Monrovia, said he is very disappointed because the entire saga of closing [Henry] Costa’s station has put businesses at a standstill. “This problem, which has led to the closure of businesses is not good for the country. Right now, I just came to pick up my son from school. I am not taking chances because safety comes first. So, it’s better for my son to be home and later I join the family, then for him to be stranded.”

On Benson Street, which was the hottest zone, another protesting group in favor of the government were running from street to street singing slogans like Jorweah, Jorweah, Jorweah and ‘No More Costa, No More Costa, No More Costa’, while at the Freedom FM, where multitude of crowd and onlookers stood, employees of the radio station were seen locked upstairs of the building or prevented from being harm, while heavily armed ERU officers guided the blue two-sided steel door.

Women selling vegetables in front of the Supermarket nearby Freedom FM covered their produce and sat alertly waiting.  

Loveti Johnson, who sells vegetable opposite the Monoprix Supermarket, said they decided to cover their goods, which are perishable because they did not want the protesters and the police to damage them as the protesters ran helter skelter from the teargas. 

“The everyday running around and noise in the country is too much. The people that are supposed to come and invest, are not coming because they are scared. Furthermore, business is very poor, no money, so because of too much noise, many people are holding their money tight. This protest has affected my business today. I sell vegetables; they will spoil if I do not sell them fast,” Ms. Johnson said.

She added: “I do not think I will make any money today nobody is buying. My advice to the President is that; when he pays attention to the noise protesters or from opposition, he will not do what he is supposed to do, so let the government take time,” says Johnson.

An onlooker who was on the scene at Roots FM said he does not think the equipment that were removed from the station by the police will ever work – even if Costa gets them back because of the way they were handled by the officers and others.

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